ReFo: NYG @ PIT, Preseason Wk 1
Preseason football is back and finally we get the opportunity to see the 2013 versions of all 32 franchises. Now, preseason has its limitations, with some players who will go on to carve out long-term careers currently going up against players who will be out of football come September.
However, it does give us a glimpse at which players we should be keeping an eye on and a very early, and I can’t stress the emphasis on early enough, indication on which rookies can make an impact this year.
It’s preseason, so the 18-13 score line is neither important nor memorable, but when the New York Giants headed to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, there were a few players who made us take note.
Giants — Three Performances of Note
Backup Quarterbacks Fail to Impress
Unlike the nearby Bills and Jets, the Giants come into this season, like many before it, with a settled starting quarterback. That’s good news for Giants fans, because what we got to see from the players below Eli Manning on the depth chart on Saturday night was certainly not pretty viewing. David Carr’s (-1.2) first throw was a half-step away from being picked off and returned for a touchdown by Steelers defensive back Richard Golden and, while he didn’t make another throw as bad as that, there was little to be impressed by. Rookie Ryan Nassib (-2.4) had a poor throw himself, forcing the ball across the middle on 3rd-and-10 with 4:43 left to go in the game. That left Curtis Painter (-0.9), who didn’t have any scary throws like Nassib and Carr, but he threw just one catchable ball beyond nine yards, which was subsequently dropped.
More Damontre Moore Please
There wasn’t a player in the game who jumped out more than Giants third-round draft pick Damontre Moore (+6.0), with the former Texas A&M student showing up all over the field. His blocked punt with 11:27 left in the first quarter was the opening highlight but he added some impressive work as a pass rusher. Beating a selection of Steelers blockers to record a hit and four hurries, he did so in a variety of different ways with pressure coming on rushes inside, outside, and once on a stunt.
It wasn’t just as a pass rusher where he impressed though, with him finding success against tight end Michael Palmer and backup offensive tackle Guy Whimper in the running game. Topping it all off he showed nice awareness on a couple of screens, preventing any positive yardage on either of them. His best work came against weaker competition but the Giants have to be excited by what they saw on Saturday night. Hopefully that means we’ll see even more of him as the preseason progresses.
A Tale of Two Young Right Guards
The Giants took a long look at second-year right guard Brandon Mosley (+1.7) in this one, keeping him on the field for 35 snaps. While there wasn’t a lot to write home about when it came to his work as a run blocker, where he had two positively graded blocks and just one negative, he was perfect in pass protection. Giving up zero pressure from 23 pass-blocking snaps isn’t something to be overlooked, even if the Steelers did keep things fairly vanilla from a defensive standpoint.
While Mosley put on a solid show, the same cannot be said for rookie seventh-rounder Eric Herman (-3.2) who, based on this showing, will need to improve in a hurry to avoid the wrath of head coach Tom Coughlin. It’s quite startling that he graded out so low on just 17 snaps, but then it was obvious during the game that he was out of his depth. Beaten for two sacks and pushed around in the running game, this is a rookie with a lot of work to do.
Steelers — Three Performances of Note
Jones Gets Beaten Outside
While Moore produced as an edge defender for the Giants, the Steelers first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones (-1.9) had his struggles in the preseason opener. A quick glance at the highlights would show you him recovering a fumble and perhaps the impressive play to beat backup left tackle Chris DeGeare for a hit on 1st-and-10 with 21 seconds left in the first half. Both noteworthy plays, but not the whole story.
Twice he was beaten to the outside on runs, once losing contain and the second time taking a bad angle to the ball carrier and, outside of that hit, he failed to make an impact as a pass rusher. Add to that his missed tackle in coverage on 3rd-and-10 with 2:25 to go in the third quarter and there were just too many mistakes in his debut game at Heinz Field. Thankfully it’s only preseason, but there’s some work to be done still to get this first-rounder ready for a prominent role it seems.
Backup Lineman Shine
We have been frequent detractors of one member in particular of the Steelers’ starting defensive line, though it must be said Ziggy Hood (+0.7) played solidly in just nine snaps, so it’s nice to be able to report some impressive play from elsewhere on the line. Alameda Ta’amu (+1.6) put in some solid work at nose tackle, an encouraging sign given that he’ll likely be the primary backup at the position while Brian Arnfelt (+2.2) got the better of the Giants’ backup offensive lineman on more than one occasion.
The star of the show for the Steelers, however, was left end Al Woods. Problematic for both the aforementioned right guard Herman and fellow depth player Matt McCants, he finished the game with a Run Stop Percentage of 17.9%, with all five of his tackles resulting in a defensive stop. Proof that playing left end in the Steelers’ defensive scheme doesn’t prevent a player from making plays.
The Hyphen Impresses
While we didn’t get a chance to see rookie running back Le’Veon Bell in the preseason opener, fellow new addition LaRod Stephens-Howling (+1.2) put in some solid runs on his eight carries. With a positive grade on five of those runs, all for a good cut on the run, they included forcing a missed tackle from Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich on 1st-and-10 with 7:47 left in the first quarter. Two of his runs went for first downs and, while we’re all looking forward to seeing Bell on the field, Steelers fans will be happy to know that “The Hyphen” looks perfectly capable of contributing to the offense on at least a limited level.
– Pittsburgh quarterbacks were under pressure on 43.6% of their 39 drop-backs, compared with just 33.3 % for the Giants’ signal-callers.
– The Giants had two high shotgun snaps in the game, the first resulting in the Steelers’ defensive touchdown, and the second almost resulting in a turnover.
– The Giants averaged just 1.8 yards per carry on four runs off right tackle.
PFF Game Ball
Barely putting a foot wrong all game, Damontre Moore set the tone with his blocked punt early, following it up with some good all-around work on defense.
Follow Gordon on Twitter.